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Thursday, May 14, 2009, 07:00 am PT (10:00 am ET)

An alternative argument for new iPhones at WWDC

A prominent blogger is firing back at a Wall Street analyst who predicted this week that Apple's upcoming developers conference won't see the introduction of new iPhones, offering a simple argument as to why the company may be compelled to introduce its new hardware at the start of the conference.

On Wednesday, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster wrote that, "While some investors may be expecting Apple to launch redesigned iPhones at WWDC, we do not anticipate the launch in early June. Rather, we expect Apple to host a special event in late June or early July to launch a family of iPhones."

Responding to the assessment, which he called "goofy," Apple follower and Daring Fireball author John Gruber said the arrival of new iPhones at WWDC is "probably the easiest and most obvious Apple prediction of the year." He noted that last year's iPhone 3G made its debut at the conference so there's no reason to suggest this year will see anything different.

In addition, Gruber pointed to recent reports that have identified a built-in video camera and magnetometer (digital compass) as two new hardware-related features expected to turn up this year's iPhones. "[T]hat means new APIs, and if Apple wants to have WWDC sessions for the new hardware-specific APIs, they have to announce the hardware first," he said.

Apple earlier this week expanded its list of WWDC sessions, though a cursory review reveals nothing conspicuous about the existing lineup of iPhone labs or instructional presentations. Still, there's no shortage of other reasons why Apple is more likely to stick to recent tradition and clue its followers into its 2009 handset plans in early June.

For instance, the company has on average announced availability dates for its iPhones three to four weeks ahead of time so that it can funnel the necessary launch information and procedures to its partners around the world without extensive safeguards, and so that its customers have time to plan out their purchase and associated wireless contracts.

Apple is also expected to see more intense competition in the emerging smartphone space this year with Palm's touchscreen Pre device rumored for an introduction a day or so before the start of WWDC. It would be uncharacteristic of the company to allow a fledgeling rival to generate headlines weeks on end without revealing its own hand and stealing any thunder Palm may muster up, some argue.

Then there's the all-too-true argument waged by several AppleInsider forum members Wednesday that its imperative that Apple, at some point or other, demonstrate it can successfully launch a major new product like the third-generation iPhone without the charisma and showmanship that only Jobs can bring to the table.

"My gut feeling is that we’ve seen the last Steve Jobs keynote address," said Gruber. "I don’t think he’s leaving the company — and his medical leave has been scheduled to run through the end of June — but I wonder if he’s done as the company’s spokesman."